Ireland recall Zebo from ‘exile’ for November series

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Racing’s Irish centre Simon Zebo (left), who was recalled by Ireland after a four-year exile, runs to score a try during the French Top14 rugby union match against Stade Francais Paris on June 11. AFP

Simon Zebo was recalled by Ireland after a four-year exile when head coach Andy Farrell named the wing in a 38-man squad announced Wednesday for the November internationals at home to Japan, New Zealand and Argentina.

The 31-year-old Zebo left Paris-based Racing 92 ahead of the current European campaign to rejoin Irish province Munster on a one-year contract.

Having been left out of Ireland’s pre-season while he took part in France’s Top 14 club play-offs, Zebo has been recalled for next month’s trio of Tests at Dublin’s Lansdowne Road.

Zebo, who won the last of his 35 Ireland caps in 2017, effectively went into international exile when he joined Racing 92 from Munster in 2018 as the Irish Rugby Football Union generally avoids considering overseas-based players for Test selection.

Sexton eyes 100th Test

Meanwhile Ireland captain Johnny Sexton, who also missed the victories over Japan and the United States in July, has returned to the squad and the gifted fly-half could win his 100th cap for his country in their end-of-year opener against the Japanese on November 6.

Six Ireland players who were involved in the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa are back in the squad, with Bundee Aki, Conor Murray, Iain Henderson, Jack Conan, Tadhg Furlong and TadhgBeirne set to feature against Japan, New Zealand (November 13) and Argentina (November 21).

Robbie Henshaw hasn’t been included in the squad but the IRFU said the Leinster centre will continue his recovery from a foot injury “under the supervision of the Ireland medical team”.

Farrell has selected uncapped Leinster hooker Dan Sheehan and centre Ciaran Frawley in his squad, while six players who made their Test debuts in July have also been included.

“It has been a short lead in to this international window but that is the challenge, to get back up to speed quickly and build on the performances from the Six Nations and the summer Tests,” said Farrell.

Ireland squad

Backs (18)

Bundee Aki (Connacht), Robert Baloucoune (Ulster), Harry Byrne (Leinster), Joey Carbery (Munster), Craig Casey (Munster), Andrew Conway (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster), Ciaran Frawley (Leinster), Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster), James Hume (Ulster), Hugo Keenan (Leinster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster), James Lowe (Leinster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Johnny Sexton (Leinster, capt), Simon Zebo (Munster)

Forwards (20)

Ryan Baird (Leinster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht), TadhgBeirne (Munster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Gavin Coombes (Munster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Caelan Doris (Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster) Rob Herring (Ulster), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Tom O’Toole (Ulster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), James Ryan (Leinster), Dan Sheehan (Leinster), Nick Timoney (Ulster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster)

Fixtures (all at Lansdowne Road, Dublin)

Nov 6: Ireland v Japan (1300 GMT)

Nov 13: Ireland v New Zealand (1515 GMT)

Nov 21: Ireland v Argentina (1415 GMT).